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UN Special Rapporteur Warns of Negative Impact of Over-Compliance with Unilateral Sanctions on Healthcare Access

Human RightsUN Special Rapporteur Warns of Negative Impact of Over-Compliance with Unilateral Sanctions on Healthcare Access

The UN Human Rights Council-appointed Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, has highlighted the issue of over-compliance by businesses, including banks and financial institutions, with unilateral sanctions imposed by governments for foreign policy purposes.

Ms. Douhan expressed concern that some individually imposed sanctions are negatively affecting people’s access to healthcare. She pointed out that health systems worldwide are highly vulnerable to the enforcement of unilateral sanctions and the increasing trend of over-compliance and excessive de-risking policies.

In her report to the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, Ms. Douhan emphasized the adverse effects of over-compliance with unilateral sanctions by businesses on a global scale. She noted that sanctions can present significant challenges to the procurement and delivery of essential healthcare items, such as medicines and medical equipment, which are typically exempt from restrictions.

The use of secondary sanctions, which target entities outside the sanctioned country, also has serious implications for the human rights of citizens in sanctioned nations, particularly their right to access adequate, timely healthcare. The UN highlighted that these sanctions impact various health-related issues, including shortages of healthcare workers, limited training opportunities, and barriers to accessing scientific knowledge and research.

Ms. Douhan emphasized that unilateral sanctions and zero-risk policies violate multiple international treaties and customary obligations of states, including those outlined in the UN Charter and relevant international human rights treaties. She warned against using claims of unintentional humanitarian impacts or good intentions to justify the design and implementation of such unilateral measures.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN experts operate independently of any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity, receiving no salary for their work.

By FCCT Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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